The Babies R Us in Fairless Hills closed when my youngest was under a year old, and I’ve been wondering what would move into that massive space ever since. I was excited to finally see a Grand Opening sign a few weeks ago when making a trip to the BJ’s next door. The sign read 2A (which I’ve since learned stands for 2nd Avenue) Thrift Superstore. NICE! I was unintentionally one day early for opening day, but I made a mental note to stop in the next time I was running errands solo. Well, a need for batteries and toilet paper took me to BJ’s today, so it was chance to stop in and look around.
My first impressions upon entering the store: It’s huge, clean and well organized. All great things in my opinion! I should have expected the store to be big since I knew it was the former Babies R Us, but without the tall shelving displaying strollers and other baby gear breaking up my visual line, it seemed even bigger than I remembered.
The entire center of the store is clothing, which is divided by gender, size and even length of sleeve. Since I knew I didn’t have time to do a thorough digging (and let’s face it, my kids are always who I shop for most), I went past the clothing to the left side of the store. Kid clothing was organized in the same fashion. Behind clothes, there were shelves of toys. And along the wall, they have bags and bags and BAGS of miniature toys grouped together. The little baggies were all priced at just a few dollars, and I actually spent the most time here. My kids LOVE little toys. And as much as it makes me crazy constantly picking them up off the floor, I’m a fellow lover of miniature things. With a few things in mind, I couldn’t resist hunting for some “treasures.”
So what did I get, and what did I spend?
Eagles Super Bowl Champions tee (Children’s size 7/8) $2.99
LEGO Ninjago Guide Book $.99
LEGO Harry Potter activity book and minifigure $1.49
Lightning McQueen mini backpack $2.67 (33% off)
Disney McDonald’s toy (plus 2 other toys I didn’t keep) $1.99
Total = $10.56
Since I had limited time, I really focused on toys and books during this visit. (And the one shirt that caught my eye.) When you’re going into a huge thrift store like this, it can be a little overwhelming. Here are a few tips that can help!
Tips for Thrift Shopping
Know your prices.
This might seem obvious, but it’s easy to get caught up in the “I’m thrifting!” mindset and just assume that prices are good. If you’re not sure if something is a good price, do a quick search on your phone. It stinks to get home and realize you could have bought it NEW for the same price.
Know your sizes. (Bring a comparison item if possible!)
If you’re shopping for yourself, obviously you should try something on if a fitting room is available. But if you’re shopping for someone else, it’s a good idea to bring along an outfit that you KNOW fits them well. That way, you can hold it up for comparison. If this isn’t practical, you can at least write down some measurements to take with you. (Shirt length, pant inseam and waist are good to know.) Then bring a tape measure with you. Sometimes brands vary in size. And even more importantly, some items SHRINK after being washed and dried. When I buy used clothing (or am lucky to get hand-me-downs from cousins and friends), I find that I almost always need to size up. The exception here is usually dress clothes, since they tend to only be worn and washed much less frequently. (They also tend to be in the best condition!)
Know your brands.
If you’re shopping for kids, they’re not typically going to care about the brand. BUT, you don’t want to find that you’re overpaying for a shirt you could get new on sale from the store for the same price or less. For example, I know I can get Children’s Place tees for $4 or less directly from the website with free shipping. So I’m not going to pay that thrift. GAP Kids, however, is typically more expensive, so I know it’s a better deal. If you see something that has a Disney World tag, you can pretty much guarantee that (if it’s in good condition) it’s a good deal. This is also a great way to get a souvenir for your trip without spending a lot!
Check the condition of whatever you’re buying!
Stains, holes, missing buttons. Ripped pages, missing pieces, etc. They’re all common in thrift store items and they could make a difference to you in whether it’s worth taking home or not. Most thrift stores have a strict no-return policy. So you don’t want to be surprised by an issue when you get home. (Tip: Buying super cheap clothes is also great for those messy projects where you don’t want to worry about them ruining their outfits!) You’ll see in my photo above that the Ninjago book is missing the LEGO pieces. But a quick Amazon search showed this usually sells for $12, so it was still worth it to me for 99 cents.
Be wary of any electronics and test first if you can.
I saw several remote control toys today that were completely missing the remotes. Now that SHOULD be an obvious no-go, but I suppose someone MIGHT be able to use it if they have the remote at home?? Anyway, if you’re considering buying any toy that takes batteries, it’s not a bad idea to have some batteries and a small screwdriver in your bag to test it out first. For plug-in devices, ask a store associate if you can access an outlet to test first. IF that’s not an option, you’ll want to be CERTAIN that the price is low enough that you won’t be crushed if it doesn’t work when you get home.
Have a List.
No, you’re probably not going to go into a thrift store with a shopping list like you’d take to the grocery store. But it’s helpful to have a general idea of the area you want to focus on that day. At the least, I tend to have a mental list of the brands, characters, and materials that I keep an eye out for. My current list includes: Ghostbusters, LEGO, trains, Lightning McQueen, Disney princesses and solid wood furniture.
Don’t take anything home that you’re not going to keep.
This is one that I’m sure some people will disagree with because you might be thinking, “Well, if I’m not spending a lot of money, it’s not a big deal if it doesn’t work out.” And I get that. But my goal when I visit a thrift store is NOT to turn around and then donate it the next time I purge the stuff in my house. For example, the McDonald’s toy I bought today was packaged with two other small toys that I knew my kids would discard within a few days. And I’d just be shoving them somewhere, only to put them in the donation pile a month from now. But that specific McDonald’s toy was one that we missed when they were given out in Happy Meals, and my kids STILL ask about it months and months later. So it was well worth the $1.99 on its own to me! When I paid for my purchases, I simply asked the cashier if I could leave the other two items for them to repackage and sell.
Obviously, this tip doesn’t apply if you’re someone that “flips” your purchases by reselling your thrift finds!
Think BIG … and small.
When my husband and I first bought our house, we made the usual visits to the big name local furniture stores. But some of my favorite pieces in our home are dressers that I bought (well, and curb picked) second-hand. Solid wood furniture can be hard to find at decent prices, but it lasts SO much longer than other materials. It’s also usually easy to sand down and repaint or stain. And even if it’s not a good fit for your home, but you have the space, time and knowhow to fix it up – there’s usually a good demand to resell. Because of this, I ALWAYS check out the furniture section.
On the flip side, I typically check out the SMALL toys and home decor. Small, cheap toys are perfect for stashing in a purse or diaper bag when you “need” a little something to get you through that dinner out, a long car ride, or yes, sometimes a little bribe for good behavior. In addition, the small toys can truly be a case of “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” A replacement for a missing figure in a set, that McDonald’s toy your child really wanted but wasn’t able to get … these are the types of things that people might find no use for and donate, but could be JUST what you’re looking for.
What are YOUR favorite thrift finds? I’ll have to go through our house and share some on Facebook/Instagram soon.